Hector Guimard’s entrances to the Paris Metro stations are some of the most prominent and impressive examples of Art Nouveau metalwork. They are constructed from cast iron, wrought iron and cast bronze. We were asked to restore one of these station entrances for the V&A’s major exhibition 'Art Nouveau, 1890-1914', which took place in 2000.
This particular example had been held in pieces, in store for many years and was in poor condition when we first inspected it. The restoration included cleaning, extensive repair and repainting. The more complex part of the project, however, was to design and fabricate a system whereby the entire entrance could be safely erected within the museum galleries, and then be dismantled and reassembled when the exhibition toured to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum.
In Paris, we took moulds from one of the kerbs that support the base of the metalwork, and cast these in resin, painted to imitate the stone. The imitation kerb concealed the complex structural frame that held the ironwork safely erect. We travelled to Japan and Washington to supervise the re-erection of the station entrance for the touring exhibition. The entrance is now permanently sited in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.